My dear and faithful readers: Why slide? Because everything in Jamaica truly is tilting into a pre-Jamaica 50, Olympic Games torpor. Scarcely anything moved on our street today except the gardener. Even he paused in his work occasionally to gaze dreamily up at the trees, for no particular reason (although it could be that he had spotted our baldpates’ nest high in our guango tree). Yes… It is very warm, the sky is the color of bone china painted with white clouds… And one could easily imagine that Jamaica has not a care in the world.
A Jamaican tweeted plaintively this evening: “Is there anything else happening in Jamaica apart from dancehall, ATI partying, drinking liquor and idle chatter?” Well, very little else. Translation: “ATI” is a special breed of party that crops up at this time of year – full name Appleton Temptation Island. The ads, featuring a sultry and curvaceous woman draped around a large snake (or vice versa) urges us to “unleash our wild side,” next weekend, in the tourist resort of Negril, for three days over the Independence Day Weekend (August 3 – 6). Yes, three days of “drinking responsibly.” Young (and not-so-young) women in what we used to call “batty riders” (short shorts) and bikini tops will gyrate energetically with cute young (and not-so-young) men, holding plastic cups of Appleton aloft and appearing to have a pretty wild time. Their photographs will adorn the social pages the following week. If you want to experience this fascinating phenomenon of Jamaican middle-class social life for yourself – the non-stop, all-inclusive party – the ATI website link is below. Buy yourself a party package today! There, I have given them a good “plug.”
But hold on, there is Smirnoff Dream Weekend too? Also in Negril? Eleven parties in six days? I’m speechless. As the partygoers will no doubt be after around Day Three.
Well, so let’s start with what didn’t happen this week. There were, so far as I know, no charges laid against the two local politicians who were arrested amidst great drama in early morning raids, on suspicion of their involvement in the horrible “lotto scam.” However, they both appeared in court this week. The Deputy Mayor‘s son pleaded guilty to possession of an illegal firearm, and his father was bailed; the other councilor was charged with illegal possession of…a flat-screen television set. However, although many are declaring that this is an anti-climax of major proportions, we must allow the law to take its course. There may well be more to follow. Let’s stay tuned.
The Education Minister did not make a flowery speech. Or did he? Please correct me if I am wrong.
Sadly, too, the Tacky Heritage Group’s all-island walk was not completed, after its leader developed blisters on the soles of his bare feet. Derrick “Black X” Robinson was advised not to continue, after walking from Montego Bay to St. Mary, along the north coast. The purpose of the walk was to lobby for Tacky, a Coromantee chief who led slaves to a rebellion in 1760, to be named a National Hero. Tacky really did start a pretty serious rebellion, which lasted for three months. Tacky was killed by a Maroon marksman called Davy, who cut off his head – later stuck on a pole in Spanish Town. Harsh and cruel times.
Water also failed to run in the pipes of many Jamaicans this week. The drought is kicking in, especially in the parched city of Kingston. There are layers of Saharan dust in the atmosphere – still. So, no rain. I was greatly chagrined to be watching a television news report from St. Mary this week, however, to see huge puddles and rain dripping from the roofs. Not fair!
Another non-event: The Government increased the minimum wage by 11 per cent, and those for security guards by 10 per cent, effective September 3. This was, as usual, announced with much fanfare. Considering that the employers of these minimum wage-earners are not getting similar wage rises, and their costs are going up daily, this will serve no purpose except to make some employers consider laying people off. Not that I think the minimum wage is too high – of course it’s not. But it’s a futile exercise.
Parliamentarians appeared rather chilled last week, with one government senator exchanging light banter with the opposition. There was cordial laughter – not the braying sound usually emitted in Parliament, which passes for laughter. In this relaxed mood, the Lower House tabled legislation for Jamaica to join the Caribbean Court of Justice. There is much, much more to be said on this topic. The Opposition – and a sizable number of Jamaicans – believe that this issue should be put to a referendum. This is an issue that will rear its head again soon, for sure. Stay tuned on this one…
The Commissioner of Police announced a 13.3 per cent drop in major crimes so far this year. However, murders (not a major crime?) are up by three per cent. He did tell us that we are “by no means out of the woods” – just in case we all thought we had emerged into the sunlight. Much work still to be done.
Oh, by the way, we are expecting not one, but two African leaders to visit our shores next week for “Jamaica 50.” South Africa’s Jacob Zuma will be here for a three-day visit on August 4, preceded by Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan. Some Jamaicans are muttering, “I hope he brings us some good luck, too…some oil, maybe.”
But of course, the major obsession in the past week has been the London Olympics. The extraordinary focus on Usain Bolt as the poster boy of London has made Jamaicans’ hearts swell with pride. Some of us even decided the ugly team kit wasn’t so bad, after all. Excitement reached fever pitch. Then, when a few negative reports slipped in under the radar about Bolt & Co., some Jamaicans became peevish, insisting that the whole thing was a dark (American) conspiracy against the Jamaican team. I think a little perspective is needed, at this point. Yes, it’s wonderful for Mr. Bolt’s image to be plastered over the Houses of Parliament (although I thought that was overkill) – but let’s just remember that there is a difference between a journalist looking for a good juicy story and a public relations practitioner putting a lovely gloss on things.
Excitement reached fever pitch for the Opening Ceremony, although again there were complaints about the small amount of lens time given to the team. Conspiracy again. One tweeter complained that the camera spent too much time on Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Jamaican Ambassador to the United Kingdom Aloun Assamba, when it could have been focused on our soon-to-be-heroes in their Cedella Marley military gear. Complaints flooded in about the quality of the exclusive coverage for Jamaica, which left a great deal to be desired and was almost non-existent for some. But despite some initial bafflement and barely-suppressed yawns from many Jamaican viewers, Mr. Bean was a huge hit and both David Beckham and Daniel Craig provided some marvelous eye candy for yours truly. Despite my nervous disposition, I could certainly pluck up the courage to dash along a fire-lined canal in a speedboat with David. I would even jump out of a helicopter with Daniel. The kids in pajamas were cute, too – but in a very different way of course.
Meanwhile, news in brief:
Three American tourists went missing off a cruise ship, but were found comfortably installed in a guest house not far away.
Several Jamaicans were shot dead, some by the police (see below).
The police destroyed a huge pile of drugs at a secret location.
They also seized large amounts of cocaine, and some guns, in various operations across the island. Kudos.
And major kudos to…
Founder and President of the Institute of Caribbean Studies in Washington, DC, the intrepid Jamaican Dr. Claire Nelson. The White House honored her today as one of nine “Champions of Change” for fostering U.S.-Caribbean partnerships and supporting the Caribbean diaspora. She’s a trained engineer and a proud alumna of Kingston’s St. Hugh’s High School. The Champions of Change program is administered by the U.S. State Department and the United States Agency for International Development.
Mr. Brandon Allwood, Mr. Dominic McKenzie, Ms. Nekeisha Lewis and all the young members of Help JA Children, a lobby group that was established after the horrific article in the Jamaica Observer on child abuse in Jamaica. And to Mr. Samuel The group organized a highly successful and high-profile march in Kingston on May 1. They have now launched a Child Abuse Reporting System (CARS) – a BlackBerry application that allows you to report child abuse on the spot. It is only the second application of its kind in the world, available now and free in BlackBerry App World, approved by Research in Motion, and the first in the region. Of course, as we all know, young people are technology-focused. This is the way to go. I look forward to the app being available for android phones, as I do love my Samsung Galaxy! Shameless ad there…
More on Help JA Children, and the CARS launch, in a future blog post! And meanwhile, don’t forget to party!
On a serious and very sad note…
As is my custom, I extend deepest sympathies to the family and friends of all those listed below (and any others I may have missed) who lost their lives at the hands of others last week. We actually happened to know one of them – a mason, who did some building work for us – who apparently witnessed a shooting, and was killed himself as a result. His nickname was “Concord.” Rest in peace; you died far, far too young.
Roger Robinson, 37, Rae Town Fishing Beach, Kingston
Paulette Morrison, 15, Majesty Gardens, Kingston
Anthony Johnson, 34, Stony Hill, St. Andrew
Ragland Flemings, 51, Stony Hill, St. Andrew
Derrick Irving, 42, Stony Hill, St. Andrew
Boy, 16, Slipe, St. Elizabeth
Lisha Wang, 28, Mount Salus, St. Andrew
Unidentified man, Port Maria, St. Mary
Killed by the police:
Ferron Baker, 26, Oakland Road, Kingston
Unidentified man, Stony Hill, St. Andrew
Kevon Brown, Hendon/Norwood, St. James
Patrick Wedderburn, Hendon/Norwood, St. James
- Sunday Situation: July 22, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Jamaica Police Torch Seized Marijuana (abcnews.go.com)
- Jamaica and the London 2012 Olympics: All Jamaican Athletes are now in London and headed to Athlete’s Village (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- http://www.atiweekend.com/ (Appleton Temptation Island weekend)
- http://www.jamaicadreamweekend.com/ (Smirnoff Dream Weekend)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120103/lead/lead5.html (Let the people decide on CCJ – JFJ)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Commish-praises-cops-for-downward-trend-in-crime-figures (Commish praises cops for downward trend in crime figures)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120519/news/news1.html (St. Mary remembers Tacky)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120728/lead/lead5.html (All island walk halted)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CISOCA-shocked-by-surge-of-child-on-child-sex-cases_12034866 (CISOCA shocked by surge of child-on-child sex cases)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120728/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Facing up to sexual deviancy: Gleaner editorial)
- Usain Bolt says bad back has caused problems (nbcsports.msnbc.com)
- Human Rights Watch urges Jamaica to scrap anti-buggery law (caribbean360.com)
- http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-105/31400 (Jamaican to be honored by White House as Champion of Change)
- http://www.icsdc.org/home (Institute of Caribbean Studies)